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The now-closed Glen Mills reform school for boys in Pennsylvania faces more than a dozen lawsuits over claims that staff physically and sexually assaulted students there for decades, with nearly half of the claims filed over the past few weeks.
According to a report published in the The Philadelphia Inquirer on January 29, at least five new lawsuits over the reform school abuse were filed last Wednesday by former students, bringing the overall total of individual claims to 13. In addition, at least two Glen Mills reform school class action lawsuits have been filed on behalf of former students.
Each of the complaints raises similar allegations, describing incidents involving children attending the reform school, which was founded in 1826 and received juveniles from throughout the United States. The latest lawsuits indicate the school’s leadership fostered a culture of fear and abuse and ignored both the medical and educational needs of its students.
Plaintiffs in the lawsuit describe being repeatedly raped by staff members, in some cases while other staff members served as lookouts. Some of the claims indicate students were raped two or three times per week while at the Pennsylvania reform school, where several state courts nationwide sent juveniles.
At a news conference held the day the latest lawsuits were filed, one plaintiff, Tawfeeq Abdul-Lateef, said it appeared the staffers used the boys at the school as an outlet for anger and rage, and said they took turns viciously beating him.
The abuse was first uncovered as part of prior investigative reports by the Philadelphia Inquirer, which led Pennsylvania Governor Tom Wolf to propose $5.1 million in new funding for oversite of the state’s residential juvenile programs, which would create more than 100 new staff positions.
In late March 2019, a month after the first article was published, Pennsylvania’s Department of Public Welfare Deputy Secretary Cathy A. Utz announced an Emergency Removal Order for Glen Mills Schools, where at least 64 students remained, which was down from a peak of more than 1,000 students.
The Glen Mills School was first founded in 1826, and housed boys from across the nation, many of whom were sent to the reform school through a court order due to behavioral problems. However, the investigation revealed rampant abuse and physical violence, and efforts to threaten children attending the school into silence.
After the first Philadelphia Inquirer article was published, states and cities began withdrawing juvenile delinquents from the Glen Mills reform school, and Executive Director Randy Ireson stepped down, claiming a leave of absence for health reasons.
State officials investigated and corroborated the newspaper’s findings, and the state revoked all of the school’s licenses on April 8, 2019.